Donald Frith

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Donald Frith
Frith creating a new teapot
Born(1924-09-16)September 16, 1924
DiedJanuary 6, 2021(2021-01-06) (aged 96)[1]
Occupation(s)Professor of ceramics and jewelry
Known forDesigning teapots
SpouseBarbara Tepfer (married 1949–2007)[2]

Donald Eugene Frith (/friTH/ /frɪθ/; September 16, 1924 – January 6, 2021) was an American ceramic artist and academic known for his unique style of teapots, mixing ceramics with acrylics and wood.[1]

Frith was a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana from 1952 until his retirement in 1989, and was the chair of the crafts department for many years. He then became a professor emeritus.[3]

He was one of the first artists that made a three-point handle teapot. An early example of the "three handle teapot" was pictured in the ceramics book A Potter’s Handbook.[4] He specialized in production design work, with his knowledge of molds. He wrote the book Mold Making for Ceramics ISBN 0801975395. This book became the definitive reference worldwide on mold making in craft ceramics production.

Early life and education[edit]

Frith was born in Denver, Colorado. A World War II veteran, Frith served in the United States Navy as a Seabee[1] in the Philippines.[5]

He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1949 and Master of Arts (MA) from Denver University. He lived in San Bernardino, California for three years in this period. He was awarded on two occasions a Danforth Foundation grant to study at the Alfred University where he received a Master of Fine Arts in 1966.[6][1]


In 1952, Frith was hired as assistant professor of ceramics and jewelry at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and went on the serve as head of the crafts department for 40 years, and then became a professor emeritus. He started the glass, metals and ceramics programs at that university.

Frith was among the artists in an exhibition called "American Craftsman" at the Dallas Museum of Art from February 19 to March 11, 1956.[7]

He also worked as a product designer for three pottery companies.[1]

Frith served as founding member of the Illinois Crafts Council and the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA).[1]

Frith had a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago from January 11 to March 29, 1964. The exhibit was called "Ceramics and Jewelry by Donald E. Frith".[8][9]

In 1966 the American Craft Council awarded him a National Merit Award[citation needed] and in 1971 he was awarded Fellow of the council by NCECA. He has served as officer of the Design Division Award for outstanding contribution to the field. He was elected to the board of Trustees of the American Ceramic Society to serve three-year term in 1986. In 1991 he was awarded Fellow of the Society by the American Ceramic Society.[10]

Frith and his wife moved to Santa Maria, California in 1989 after he retired as a university professor. That is where he developed his favorite artistic form, intricate teapots shaped like flowers with complex wooden handles.[5]

He had a solo exhibition at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts in Ojai, California from November 1 to December 31, 2008.[11]

In 2017, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art held an exhibition of Frith's work from September 1 through to October 29, 2017.[12][5]

Frith's work is in permanent collections including the Georgia Museum of Art,[13] Contemporary Crafts Museum in New York City, Lakeview Art Center in Peoria, Illinois, The Art Institute of Chicago, Saint Louis Art Museum, Krannert Art Museum, U of I, Illinois State Museum, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science, Museum of Arts and Design, New York City.[dubious ][citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

He met his wife Barbara (née Tepfer) at Denver University, and they were married in 1949.[1] They had four children and lived in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois for many years.[1] In 1989, the couple moved to Santa Maria, California to continue creating art in retirement. Barbara, also an artist, died in 2007. They had been married for 58 years.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Donald E. Frith". Santa Maria Times. January 24, 2021. Retrieved 2021-02-22.
  2. ^ a b "A. Barbara Frith". The News-Gazette. January 9, 2008. Retrieved 2021-02-26.
  3. ^ "In Memoriam Harry Breen, Don Frith, and Edward Zagorski". University of Illinois. 2021. Retrieved February 28, 2021. Professor Emeritus Don Frith (Crafts) joined our faculty in 1952 and retired in 1989. He was the chair of crafts for many years and created the University of Illinois Craft Guild. His definitive book Mold Making for Ceramics (1985) is still in use today.
  4. ^ Nelson, Glenn C. (1960). A Potter's Handbook. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. p. 112. ISBN 0305589059.
  5. ^ a b c Rose, Rebecca (September 20, 2017). "Orcutt ceramicist Don Frith shows his teapots at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art". Santa Maria Sun. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
  6. ^ Thames, Jon (1977). Illinois Clayworks. DeKalb, Illinois: Art Department, Northern Illinois University. p. 35.
  7. ^ "American Craftsman". Dallas Museum of Art. 1956. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
  8. ^ "An exhibition of ceramics and jewelry by Donald E. Frith , Chairman of the Illinois Craftsmen's Council, will be on display at The Art Institute of Chicago through March 29, 1964". Interior Design. 1964. p. 163.
  9. ^ "Ceramics and Jewelry by Donald E. Frith: Jan 11–Mar 29, 1964". Art Institute of Chicago. 1964. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
  10. ^ "Fellows of The American Ceramic Society" (PDF). The American Ceramic Society. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-02-27.
  11. ^ "Donald E. Frith Teapot Exhibition: November 1 - December 31, 2008 in the Beato Gallery". Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts. 2008. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
  12. ^ "Donald Frith: A Master in Porcelain" (PDF). Newsletter (September / October 2017 ed.). San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.
  13. ^ "Bowl – Works – eMuseum". localhost. Retrieved 2021-02-28.

External links[edit]